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Gignac making unbeaten Marseille no laughingstock

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PARIS (AP) -Nobody is laughing at Andre-Pierre Gignac anymore.

Gignac became the laughingstock of the French league last year when he was sent to an Italian health center to lose weight. The 2010 World Cup striker struggled to get fit last season, was dropped by France, and bothered by groin injuries.

But the new season has renewed him. After finding the net only once in 21 league matches last season, he's scored three times in spearheading Marseille to four wins in its first four league matches.

Gignac looks much more like the player who was the top-scorer in the league in the 2008-09 season, and he and Marseille seek a fifth straight win at Nancy on Sunday.

Marseille's excellent start has defied preseason predictions, after the club lost this summer such key players as Cesar Azpilicueta, Stephane Mbia, Alou Diarra and Brandao to trim payroll. But thanks to the likes of Gignac, Marseille isn't missing them.

"He's maybe our best recruit this season," Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo said.

Another explanation for Marseille's form is the improved ambiance within the club. Last season, Gignac was forced to apologize for insulting then coach Didier Deschamps, despite his teammates regarding the comments as truthful. The lack of unity became obvious with a much-publicized rift between Anigo and Deschamps, paving the way for Marseille's disappointing 10th-place finish.

Deschamps has taken over the coaching duties of France and has been replaced by Elie Baup, who led Bordeaux to the league title in 1999.

The club has shown more unity on the pitch. Marseille has the tightest defense in the league, conceding only one goal.

"We're trying to rediscover the solidarity that we've lost (last season)," Marseille defender Rod Fanni said. "We're more solid, everybody is making more effort."

Paris Saint-Germain, which remained blind to the economic crisis by spending ?150 million on players this summer, more than any other club in Europe, has yet to see its investment materialize into attractive football.

PSG hasn't played like a team yet, but rather an expensive collection of talents. The Parisian club was unhealthily dependent on Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored all of the team's goals.

PSG earned its first victory of the season by defeating Lille 2-1 in the previous round. Trailing Marseille by six points, PSG will need a win over Toulouse on Friday to make up ground on the top teams.

"I think our performance (at Lille) can help us kickstart our season," PSG captain Christophe Jallet said. "I hope this will be the start of a long winning streak."

Jallet scored the second goal in France's 3-1 win over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

On Saturday, it's: Troyes vs. Lille; Evian vs. Bastia; Nice vs. Brest; Saint-Etienne vs. Sochaux; and Valenciennes vs. Bordeaux.

Defending champion Montpellier visits Reims on Friday, while on Sunday Lyon faces Ajaccio and Rennes takes on Lorient.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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